“What if” is game many have played since childhood. In this intriguing game, a player is put in an imaginary dilemma and must make a difficult choice. It’s a kind of moral information gathering exercise about the limits of our imaginations, fears and values, where there are no absolute right or wrong answers, and no “price to pay” (other than the discomfort from having to think about choosing from unpleasant choices).

Some believe that making the right choices leads to good outcomes. Some know that life happens and our only choice is to play the hand we’re dealt.

During this time of giving thanks, it is nice to see Facebook friends daily acknowledging their blessings, reassuring us that life is good.  At the same time, others are making life-changing choices with uncertain, perhaps devastating, consequences.

Across America, employees fortunate to have work with the largest employer in the U.S., also suffer the misfortunes wrought by unfair labor practices. Low wages, lack of affordable benefits, variable non-full time work hours and retaliation for questioning authority, keep this large American workforce legally qualified and predictably dependent on public assistance.

How can this be? Let’s bypass the politics and get on with the game … take a walk in someone else’s shoes and see what it costs – and that tally is often not in dollars and cents.

SPENT is one of those games which leads the player through a series of realistic (read, “limited”) choices and outcomes. You’re asked to imagine being one of the 14 million unemployed who’s lost everything: home, savings, spouse. You’re a single parent with $1,000, given a series of choices you might have to make in one month, from landing a job, finding accommodations and buying groceries, to dealing with unexpected emergencies – all on very slim means.

I made it through the first round as a restaurant worker with money in my pocket (but not enough for next month’s rent). Second time through, as a warehouse worker, everything was gone within a week. I tried again and made it to the end of the month with rent ready, but some of the sacrifices to do so were de-humanizing (such as, ignoring family needs and bonds).

For many Americans, it is not a game, but a sad reality.

What would you do? Play SPENT. Let me know how you fare. Good luck!